It is my belief that Jenson Button, the most triumphant driver of the 2009 season, has won the first and last world championship of his Formula One career. While my crystal ball is not always accurate, I feel Button’s move to McLaren may prove to be his downfall. I also believe I would have written this post even if the Briton had chosen to remain with Brawn for the 2010 season. Why am I being so pessimistic? Read on…
Given a choice of McLaren or Brawn for 2010, the answer is probably McLaren, and therefore Jenson Button has made a wise move. Brawn came from nowhere less than twelve months ago to storm to victory through the year and take both titles, but a fairytale story always has an ending. Comparing the resources of both teams, and combined with the historical facts, you would surely have to place your eggs in the Woking basket.
For evidence of McLaren’s great skill in development, you just have to look at the respective performances of both teams during 2009. Brawn started off very strong, but faded considerably and struggled to get themselves out of the non-winning rut. Conversely, McLaren started out at the beginning of the season in a less-than-favourable position, but dedicatedly developed their way into a race winning position. This, I am sure, will be carried over to 2010.
Of course, Mercedes have now purchased a majority stake in Brawn, and with that comes significant funding and undoubtedly security and expertise. Experience is already there as Ross Brawn has once again proven that he can win world championships, and the elder gentlemen and women from the Honda days know what they are doing. But McLaren have been doing it for longer.
So it is my belief that Button has made the correct choice, but it still remains my belief that he won’t take the 2010 title, and from there, it will become increasingly harder to take any more.
The McLaren family seems to be centred around Lewis Hamilton in the sister car, and having already taken one title for his beloved team, it is understandable that the general leaning within the crew is towards Hamilton’s garage. Although they may give each driver equal opportunity, equal equipment and insist on no team orders until necessary (one driver being out of a championship-winning position), there is still that Lewis is our man ethos. One cannot blame a team for this, it is natural human behaviour to lean towards the proven winner whom you know inside-and-out.
McLaren have run two world champions in their cars before, and although this has given the team immense success in the late ’80s, the rivalry between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost did at times get played out in front of the fans on the race track. It was clear that there was little love between the two great drivers and while that may have been acceptable in an era when it is said that men were men and boys were boys, in today’s overly-corporate world, sponsors will be wanting a happy family to promote their brands. I’m not suggesting I agree with this, merely that it is a reality.
We saw a little of this in 2007 with the pairing of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. Although Hamilton was yet to win his title (the ’07 season being his debut) the rookie’s ability behind the steering wheel soon started to make headlines. Alonso, already a double champion, probably felt slightly on edge about the unexpected competitive nature of his team mate, and soon enough, sparks flew from the McLaren camp. And much like when Senna and Prost collided at the Suzuka chicane, Hamilton held up Alonso in the Hungarian pitlane, impeding his team mate during qualifying.
Since then Hamilton has matured, as he showed the world in 2009 with some gritty drives in a car that wasn’t always a comfortable winner. In front of the media he seemed more relaxed – or at least, after the first couple of races he did – and Hamilton showed that he could work with his team and come across to all as a generally calm and focused driver. However, Hamilton’s team mate of the past two years has failed to push him like Alonso did in 2007. That element of pressure from Heikki Kovalainen’s side of the garage failed to materialise and it is a key force for any driver. You will always want to beat your team mate, but teams know it should never be easy. Kovalainen was a bit too easy for Hamilton.
Jenson Button, while a great driver and someone who has finally proven his worth in Formula One, will struggle to ultimately beat Hamilton. And if the pair somehow end up at the final race still both within shout of the title, I would feel safer putting money on the driver who is not defending his title. Having said that, Button will apply substantial pressure on Hamilton. Like in 2007, the younger Briton will be paired with a much more experienced pilot, and right now Jenson will be on Cloud-9 and will carry the number 1 on his car. Hamilton will have to make do with number 2.
As we saw in 2007, and look back even further at the late-80’s and early-90’s, team mate rivalry can win many titles, but it can also lose you some. In 2007 it was Kimi Raikkonen who crept through to finally take the title, driving McLaren’s nemesis, a Ferrari.
I feel that the pairing will prove to be very successful for McLaren, and the team should and likely will take some constructor’s titles with the British duo. But with regards to driver’s titles…
…well, you already know how I think this is going to play out for Button. Perhaps it is time I hand this over to the capable hands of you.
Great post, Ollie. I tend to agree with you. I wonder what the tension will look like once it starts to build next year between the two. Will we get the fireworks that we saw from Alonzo and Hammilton?
I think it all depends on the first few races. We saw last season the different sides to Jenson – at the start of the year when he felt his car was exactly to his liking, and he was free of any expectation, he romped away into a convincing lead.
Later in the season though when Brawn seemed to be going backwards in development while McLaren, Red Bull etc all started to overtake them, Jenson tensed up and was a completely different driver.
If he manages to get off to a decent start and builds a bit of a buffer to Lewis, then he may stretch his legs and maintain that but it certainly won’t be easy. If it goes the other way and Lewis is the one in front early on then he will probably only increase that lead.
With a title in the bag though, Button may now react differently to the pressure and be a completely different driver next season – time will tell.
On a different note, will McLaren still allow him to compete in the triathlons etc? And if they do, surely Hamilton will have to concede and enter one too?!
I can imagine Lewis and Jenson being busy beavering away in gyms over the winter each determined to come back fitter than the other…
If the MP4-25 is as good as the MP4-22, it’s gonna be electrically fascinating. Fascinatingly electric? Both! 😀
I think it will be hard for Button to take the early lead because he is new to the team and car. Hamilton should have the advantage, but like you say, only time will tell.
Don’t get me started on the triathlons! 😀
I think I remember hearing Ross Brawn say after the season was over that they ceased development of the ’09 car halfway through the season, thinking they had both championships in hand, so that they could concentrate on the ’10 car. When it looked like the championships might be slipping back toward RBR’s favor, they refocused their efforts for a few weeks back to the ’09 car. We may not have seen the Brawn team’s full abilities to develop a car over a full season, and who knows, while Mclaren were concentrating on their ’09 car, maybe Brawn/Merc got a head start on them for next year?
Wasn’t it the other way around?
That’s a fair point. Some teams have been saying recently that a successful season may mean a poor follow-up, much like McLaren ’08 – ’09. Maybe Brawn/Mercedes do have the legs on McLaren. I can’t wait for the new cars to hit the track.
I can’t remember now, but whoever held up who is besides the point (in this post) – they didn’t get along and that affected the team. Even though the team ultimately messed it up that year anyway.
Hi Ollie – you’re back ! Where’ve you been for the last few weeks?
Anyhoo, I mostly agree with your article except for the small point of saying Button is a great driver. Nope, ‘fraid not. Despite winning the WDC I still think he is distinctly average and only won because he was in the best car for the first half of the season. While I say good on him for making hay while the sun shone, to me it just proves that it wasn’t the man, it was the machine that was great.
And Jason Baker, yes it was Alonso who held up Hamilton at Hungary, if the rumours are to be beleived it was in retaliation for Hamilton not allowing Alonso to complete the extra lap in qualifying. At the risk of sounding a bit childish, Hamilton started it… 🙂
I said it last month and will say it again, Jensen Button has now seen his best days as a Grand Prix driver and will simply never become a two time champion. Odds are against him ever winning another Grand Prix. He will need to have someone elses late race misfortune in order to ever attain victory again.
His F1 career in strong with midfield results and rarely ever made podium visits. Button is a good guy who finally made the grade and I sense the candle just doesn’t burn as bright as it used to. I wish him well and hope that he will walk away healthy, wealthy and wiser for the experience.
Good article and nothing controversial in it, most people would echo your sentiments but I have a couple of reservations about next season.
The main thought is how Hamilton and Button look after their tyres on long stints and drive the car. 2007 ultimately came down to Lewis being inefficient with his tyres or him (or the team) making the wrong choice. I remember watching races and everyone on this side of the screen was screaming that his tyres were shot but he stayed out and the rest is history.
This is partly experience and partly style. He has improved in the former but his wining nature is based on the latter and cannot change. The new regulations next year may, therefore, be a tremendous advantage to the ultra smooth button and how he can get a few more laps out of a set of tyres.
Secondly, reports suggest that despite the equal status the fact is the engineering is based on Hamilton’s style which is far removed from Button’s and automatically puts the bias towards LH. Read this months F1Racing magazine for a good article on LH which shows he actively involves himself in the design… whether or not it works is unclear but he is involved.
So yes, if I were a betting man I would go for Hamilton. But if the odds are good I would put the money on JB as I don’t think its as clear cut as many think.
Bring it on!
Can’t fault your logic on this, although there is a school of thought that the narrower front tyres may help Jenson with the neutrality of the car.
I think Rubens plays a big part in JB’s champion. The Brazilian not only push JB so hard that he delivered full potential, but also gave him a lot of insight on how to fine tune his car for the race day.
Surely Hamilton will do the first part well, but what about the second part.
I can see another hamilton/alonso on the horizon.
Remembering what I can, McLaren said that Alonso/Hamilton would be perfect. I bet Ron Dennis feels silly now.
In all honesty I wouldn’t be (let’s say) unhappy if it all went pear-shaped, because:
1. I’m a Vettel und Ferrari supporter
2. I’ve been watching F1 since Hamilton came into it and it seems a bit like Pat Symonds, trouble aint to far behind him (Even if he is in a McLaren).
I think I can list the times he’s been in trouble. (Sorry about going off-topic)
2. 2007 Japanese GP (After wat he did to Sebi, I’ll NEVER forgive him.)
3. 2008 Belgian GP (I didn’t let my friend forget that quickly. he-he.)
4. 2009 Australian GP (I screamed I was so happy he got disqualified. Then my dad told me it wasn’t for the whole season. It’s an easy mistake)
I now this is completely off topic but (If u want 2 respond please do) my favourite race of the past season was the Belgian GP.
I was on my jollys and so I listened to it on the radio.
Button/Hamilton – BBaad
Vettel/Webber – Good
The thing is, these days most driver’s titles are taken by those at the controls of one of the best cars on the grid. Okay, so the 2007 Ferrari wasn’t the greatest, but it was certainly ranked up there somewhere in the vicinity of the McLaren, sometimes ahead, sometimes a behind.
To see the last driver to have won a title in a less-than-great car, well, I’m not sure it has happened this decade. Maybe, maybe one of Alonso’s Renaults, but even then they were pretty decent motors.
In fact, I’d go further and say that because the Brawn wasn’t all that great (or, the others caught and passed them) in the latter half of the year, that makes Button a superior champion because he was able to hold onto his lead when there were (faster?) drivers in faster cars all around him. Swings and roundabouts, I guess. 🙂
I disagree with this part. I think if Hamilton is able to win in the MP4-25, then Button will be able to as well. I just think Hamilton will win more regularly.
This is something that has been buzzing around in my mind as well, especially as the cars won’t be pitting for fuel and will have to respect their rubber a little more. Stuart C posted a similar thought just after you as well, although both insights went to moderation while I was toiling away at real-life work.
It would certainly appear that way as well. And while a team will want both drivers to succeed as much as possible in the car, finding two drivers who share styles so much that there is almost no difference, that must be a rarity.
Thanks. The title was brave, but ultimately honest (that really is what I think). I’ve been reading with interest the comments on Sidepodcast recently about the narrower front tyres – I’m sure you know exactly where to head but later on when I’m at home, I’ll dig a couple out and link over – the converstaions were good.
2010 is going to be interesting on so many different levels. I just hope the novelties don’t fade too quickly and we can have another epic season of racing on the track. 🙂
No worries for the tangent. 🙂 Although Hamilton wasn’t overly implicated in the ‘Spygate’ affair. Whether it was true or not I do not know for certain, as nor do most others (that made sense in my mind). It seemed to be mainly a couple of team members as well as Pedro De La Rosa and Fernando Alonso. Hamilton came out of that one fairly unscathed, I thought.
Spa usually produces a good race, and when it doesn’t there is still plenty to wax lyrical about. 🙂
Hehe, yeah, maintaining driver line-up should help Red Bull Racing as well. I’m sure Pink Peril is happy about the pairing as well. Let’s just hope 2009 wasn’t a flash in the pan.
OK so hamilton didn’t have much to do with Spygate, but it doesnt mean I like him.
I’ve heard people criticize Vettel for not winning a championship yet just bcoz Hamilton has.
Well if you stuck Hamilton, first ina BMW Sauber and then a Toro Rosso, would he really have that much success. I think that compared to other young driver’s Hamilton’s been rather spolit. people say bad stuff about Jaime Algusauri (Who I want to marry my cousin for no particular reason.) because he’s so young. Why do i think that if Hamilton had joined when he was 19 people would be singing his praises???
Jenson Button (Or Jenson Chocolate Button as me, my bruva and my cuz refer 2 him) isnt that good a driver. And I know why because Top Gear pointed it out.
When Ross Brawn was at Bennetton, they were winning. When he was at Ferrari they were winning. When he was at Brawn they were frigging winning!
The pattern?? Ross Bloody Brawn.
The amount of times I’ve had to explain that it isnt jenson, it’s the car. If you stuck Nelson Piquet in it he’d win (Or crash it).
Jaime-alrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrite (as we say in notts)
And Ross Brawn-Bloody Brilliant
(This has nothing to do with the articale)
In case of the likely event I never meet Sebastian Vettel, I just want to say it here because I’m not sure where else to say it.
SEBASTIAN I LUV U
IF U EVA WAN2 MEET ME, ORGANIZE AN EVENT AT THE FERRARI OWNERS’ CLUB AT THE FERRARI PLACE IN NOTTINGHAM OPPOSITE SHOWCASE CINEMA.. MY DAD DONT ACTUALLY OWN A FERRARI (IRONIC) BUT STILL.
My apologies for wasting anyone’s time, but I’m 13 in 3 1/2 weeks, I want to do stuff while I can’t get into trouble because I’m just an ickle wickle kid.
Here’s something about the articale.
Hamilton/ Button will be A LOT of things, but the main thing: Interesting. It will divide britain coz no1 will no who the hell to support.
I think if Hamilton had taken a similar route into and through F1 as Vettel did, he probably would have done around the same in terms of performance. As in, he would have put in a few impressive performances, made a few errors and surprised many people. As always though, it will have to remain a ‘what-if’.
I’m actually a bit of a Vettel fan, and find him more personable than Hamilton when you compare their interviews and televised demeanour, but then they have generally been interviewed differently – one is a world champion, the other is still only a race winner. One has always driven at the sharp-end, one has progressed more traditionally etc…
I don’t think Hamilton was spoiled, he just saw an opportunity, went for it and his skill/attitude/mindset/whatever was good enough to see him retained and progressed. Both drivers took different routes, and although Hamilton’s may be perceived as easier than Vettel’s, they both have merits and faults.
I’m not sure Vettel reads BlogF1, but if he did I’m sure he’d join me in wishing you a happy birthday for later in the month.
Indeed, 2010 is going to be interesting and I too am interested in how the newspapers handle the pair and how they portray the obvious rivalry between them to the fans. Thankfully, McLaren is generally considered a British team (and older fans, don’t start… I know Bruce McLaren was a New Zealander, I know they are still owned by a whole host of companies and people from all over the world, blah blah blah) so fans can at least say, “Go McLaren!” Or “Go Vettel” in your case. 🙂
Great post as usual.
I like Button but I have to agree. But there are a few things in Button that could surprise. First of all, in his career he has fared pretty well against teammates, and oftentimes it was against “better” (more established) drivers. He seems to have a quiet way of outdoing them.
He’s had a lot of controversy and has matured past a lot of mistakes – the playboy image, the musical-chairs with teams and contracts, and public comments from team bosses (Flav). My personal feeling is that he has possibly more experience with team politics and “making it work” than any other driver. Even FW who *loved him* had to move him out for JPM. Jense grew up a lot in those couple of years.
So I give him the benefit of the doubt that he rationally evaluated the overall team situation between Brawn/Merc and McLaren and on balance figured he had a better opportunity (to his definitions) at McLaren. He seems like a smart guy, I’m sure he knows it’s Lewis’s team, and he watched Alonso’s troubles at McLaren. But his image can only be improved at McLaren, contrary to opinion.
Worst case for him at McLaren if it all goes sour and he is waaayyyy off the pace is that he is another Heikki. But that only reinforces people’s opinions, it doesn’t create a new one. It also could create the perception that any 2nd driver at McLaren is toast in a team built around Hamilton, regardless of skill (even Alonso failed here). If he is a close 2nd then he is rated as a close 2nd to an acknowledged great driver. If he beats Hamilton, especially at “drivers tracks” then he earns reconsideration points from skeptics.
At Brawn he only stood to have people wonder if Ross really liked him (after the prolonged contract talks) and to watch the German drivers slowly outpace him. If he beat the other driver it would have been seen as only because it’s still “his team” and he has an off-track advantage, or the car built to his requirements.
He now has a year of handling WC pressure under his belt and is moving to an entire team that is used to handling WC pressure. He made a conscious decision to move to Lewis’s team so he’s going in eyes-wide-open. Lewis is expected to beat Button (just like Alonso was expected to beat Lewis) so the expectation is mediocrity.
My guess is that he has bought a flat in Woking and will be the first one to the Tech Centre every day until the car rolls onto tarmac. And if Nick Fry was correct in saying that Button didn’t go to McLaren for the money (that they equalled or better the offer), he just informed the McLaren team members that they have a driver who believes in THEM over his paycheck.
Good start to getting some folks on his side. He won’t beat Lewis but I think he’ll surprise.
You can never ever be sure, but I reckon you’re right, for the simple reason that if Alonso struggled against a rookie Hamilton, I suspect Button just won’t be able to get close to him. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good, quick driver, but I don’t see him as being in Hamilton’s league.
But then what do I know? I confidently predicted that Raikkonen would destroy Felipe Massa…
Get real people….the day that Jensen in the McLaren finds himself almost on the edge of winning will be the day that he will find Lewis already standing on his McLaren in “Parc Ferme”. I find it difficult to imagine JB getting more out of his car than Hamilton will. To think otherwise is simply wishing. Ask Niki Lauda.
True, but I’m going to remove the word “better” in my mind and pretend you just said “more experienced”. Of course, you can’t get anymore experienced than Barrichello at the moment, but does that make Barrichello an amazing driver? No, it doesn’t. He’s good, don’t get me wrong, but he ain’t no superstar. In the three years they raced together, Button outscored him twice, and to be honest if he hadn’t, I would be surprised.
Maybe, it’s a logical statement. I do feel though that McLaren’s inter-team politics work a little differently. I just think that even if Button works supremely well with everyone, is loved and worshiped by all, the team would still back Hamilton. I can’t really explain why I think that, I just think they would.
The point about money is also interesting and I’m doing some more reading on this at the weekend as I managed to miss some the more detailed articles on the story when it was happening.
I hope he does as well, I’m looking forward to another good year of racing.
Hehe, we all did, I think. 😀
Not all of Hamilton’s races run well, even in his championship year he had some races where the car simply wasn’t working. And we saw with Button and Barrichello in 2009, when one team mate isn’t on the money, the other might be. Button and Hamilton have differing styles to racing as well. Button is generally considered a smooth driver, while Hamilton is happy to let the back-end slide a bit and he doesn’t mind wrestling the car more in to and out of corners. Therefore, their set ups will likely differ, and at some point, the luck of one will run out, even for just one race, and the other may have it all under control.
I wouldn’t be so quick to completely rule out Button. I didn’t even consider Massa at the start of 2008, but the chap took it to the last corner of the last lap of the last race of the season. And as Patrick said, he thought Raikkonen was going to trounce the Brazilian.
RE teammates, it’s all about who your compared to. Barrichello had some brilliant races against Schumacher, and started doing well against Button. But other than the WC jitters, Button had things generally in control. Likewise, Button hasn’t had to be up against any true a-level talent, which means he can only do better than the teammates he’s pitched with. Hamilton will be a true bellwether for him.
Regarding McLaren – my feeling is that the intra-company politics are already a bit of a mess. First was the Alonso infighting, then Rondo having to admit they had Ferrari docs, then liegate, with Rondo effectively leaving McLarenF1 altogether, and losing Davey. Add to that the quite blatant act of Mercedes backing Brawn and terminating their longstanding McLaren relationship. You can’t tell me that McLaren is emotionally on rock-solid footing right now (relative to say, Ferrari who just literally kicked out their “wild card”).
For sure Lewis, deservingly, has the team wrapped around his finger. But for the little we know about Button’s personality (relative to team loyalty and what he did on Brawn’s behalf one year ago) I’m sure the paddock, especially McLaren who had to agree to Mercedes engine supply, would be very familiar. To get a newly-crowned WC driving for Ross Brawn to turn down more money (http://www.motorsport.com/news/article.asp?ID=353316&FS=F1) has to be a good way to start off. How he acquits himself and navigates the office politics relative to the “favoured son”, and how he wrangles himself some credit will be interesting.
If Button pulls off some of that, not only will the confidence show up on the track, the rattling to Lewis will be on the track too. Of course, the opposite is true too 😉
The truth is probably that Button probably realizes he won’t win another WC save for “right place/right time” (Massa/Ferrari, Irvine/Ferrari) and he is undoubtedly driving for an A-ranking team for the next 2-3 years. Nice way to spend your twilight years…
[…] quite filled the void. I’d been missing my fix of news from the excellent Ollie White over at Blog F1 so whilst his thoughts on Jenson Button’s move to McLaren and the prediction that he has won […]
my life was made a little better because of Jenson Button today. I went to the Autosport thing at the NEC Birmingham and I met (sort of) Jenson Button and the king of F1 Stirling Moss.
(When I say sort of, he walked right past me but I wasn’t allowed an autograph 🙁 but who cares,
Me, my dad and my brother have all met Stirling Moss and Jenson Button on serparate occasions!